Event ReportsPublished on Jun 14, 2018
Combating climate change: Can Mumbai be the example for rest of India?

Grave concerns were expressed over the ever-increasing amounts of plastic that are manufactured and then emptied into the ocean at an event hosted by Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the Consulate General for Canada in Mumbai, the Free Press Journal and Moneycontrol.

The event, organised on the occasion of World Environment Day and World Ocean’s Day on 8 June, encompassed the screening of the award-winning documentary “A Force of Nature” by David Suzuki, which was followed by a panel discussion on Combating Climate Change by balancing Sustainability and Development in Mumbai.

Expressing her “grave concerns”, Tara Scheurwater, Acting Consul General, Canada, said “an average plastic bag is only used for about 12 minutes, but at the same time, about 10 lakh plastic bags are used every minute in the world”. Lauding India’s efforts to ban all single-use plastic by 2022, eventually becoming a plastics-free country, she said India’s success in this initiative could serve as an example to the rest of the world.

Initiating the panel discussion, Gautam Kirtane, environmentalist and panel moderator, expressed his concerns for future while describing the “tightrope balancing act” caused by having both “social justice and economic progress on our priority list”. In relation to this, Ameya Pimpalkhare, Associate Fellow, ORF, suggested the addition of energy efficient and green buildings in Mumbai’s Development Plan 2034. This would function to improve the overall effect the buildings would have on the ecosystem, thereby balancing sustainability and development.

The panellists delved into in depth conversations on several new schemes of development that are to be implemented in Mumbai. These are, namely, the effective utilisation of solar power, the increased use of public transport, the private transport based on non-renewable sources of energy in the current transportation system, issues relating to solid waste management, and the impact the proposed urban development plans for the city would have on the environment.

When asked if effective utilisation of solar power was possible, Pimpalkhare said, “Solar Capacity is at a tipping point, and it is now becoming a viable solution in industrial and commercial premises.” He added that the maximum potential for solar use lay on the rooftops of government-owned buildings. To this effect, he suggested the government “lead by example”, increasing awareness on the use of solar energy instead of conventional, non-renewable fossil fuels like coal or diesel by installing the solar panels on their own rooftops. He also mentioned that there are deeper problems relating to finances of state electricity boards and distribution companies. In the absence of adequate policy intervention, achievement of energy independence in Mumbai, which is bound to happen in the near future, will become extremely complicated, he pointed out.

When asked about the future of electric vehicles and autonomous cars in Mumbai, R. N. Bhaskar, Consulting Editor at Moneycontrol, Network18, and the Free Press Journal, pointed out the decrease in the number of car purchases. He went on to explain the “immense possibilities for electric vehicles in Mumbai”, especially in light of the increasing fuel rates and increasing air pollution. He felt that the future holds a blend of solar energy and electric vehicles coming into the city.

Ashok Datar, an authority on city transport and founder of Mumbai Environment Social Network (MESN) was asked about the upcoming Mumbai Metro. His belief was that the metro is “not the only solution people are hoping for” and that it would not provide adequate relief to the already overburdened Mumbai Suburban Railways, and that the Metro Yard to be built at Aarey Colony was an “environmental disaster”. However, he did mention that a “policy reform” would ensure that the project was successful and non-damaging to the environment.

Rishi Aggarwal, the Founder and Director of the Mumbai Sustainability Centre, added that there is a “need for increased effort” in what was a “good opportunity” to remedy Mumbai’s situation when asked about how Mumbai was handling climate change in general. He also commended the city-dwellers in their efforts toward “segregation and composting of waste” and their desire to reduce landfill-bound waste.

Etienne Lambert, Consul, Political, Economic and Public Affairs, for Canada in Mumbai, delivered the closing remarks. He said that the Canadian Consulate had “learned a lot from the illuminating panel discussion”. He concluded that Mumbai is in a good position to address the challenges of climate change, with tremendous opportunities for advancement in diverse fields.

This report was prepared by Abhimanini Sawhney, Research Intern, ORF Mumbai

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